Brian Leetch, N.Y. Rangers & NHL Hall of Famer, Coming to NYC Experience!
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|Brian was honored with the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP during the playoffs on his way to leading the Rangers to their first Stanley Cup Championship in 54 years!|
|Brian Joseph Leetch is a retired American professional ice hockey defenseman who played 18 National Hockey League (NHL) seasons with the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Boston Bruins. He is generally considered one of the top defensemen in NHL history, being particularly noted for his skating, offense, and playmaking abilities. He and fellow Rangers teammate Mike Richter were inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008. Leetch was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto the following year.|
Leetch accumulated many individual honors during his 18-year career. He was a two-time Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s best defenseman (1992, 1997) and was the first American-born winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as Playoff MVP for his brilliant play during the Rangers’ run to the 1994 Stanley Cup Championship. (He held the honor of being the only American-born Conn Smythe winner until 2011, when Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins won it.) He is one of only five NHL defensemen to score 100 points in a season with his 102-point campaign in 1991–92. He won the Calder Trophy as the NHL Rookie of the Year in 1989 and his 23 goals that season remain an NHL record for rookie defensemen. Leetch’s number 2 was retired by the Rangers on January 24, 2008. During the ceremony, longtime teammate Mark Messier referred to Leetch as the single “Greatest Ranger of All Time.”
Although he was born in Texas, his family moved from there three months after he was born, eventually settling in Cheshire, Connecticut. This is where Leetch began to hone his hockey skills at a local ice rink managed by his father. In high school he starred in baseball and hockey, first at Cheshire High School, and then at Avon Old Farms. As a sophomore, his 90-mph fastball helped the Cheshire Rams baseball team to a state championship and, as a senior at Avon Old Farms, he set the school record for strikeouts in a game with 19. Hockey, however, was the sport in which he most excelled. As a sophomore at Cheshire, he scored 53 goals and 50 assists, earning All-state honors. In two seasons with Avon Old Farms he scored 70 goals and 90 assists in 54 games. These numbers were especially remarkable for a defenseman. NHL scouts were starting to take notice and the New York Rangers chose Leetch as their first-round pick (9th overall) in 1986, making him the first player drafted that year who did not play major junior hockey. Following in the footsteps of his father Jack, Brian enrolled at Boston College in the fall of 1986, and, like his father, would become an All-America defenseman for the Eagles.
After one season at Boston College he played for the US Olympic team at the 1988 Games in Calgary, making his NHL debut, eight days later, with the New York Rangers on February 29, 1988 versus St. Louis. Leetch tallied his first NHL point in the game with an assist on Kelly Kisio’s goal. He finished out the 1987-88 season with 14 points in 17 games. In his first full NHL season (1988-89), Leetch notched 71 points, including a rookie defenseman-record 23 goals, winning the Calder Trophy as well as being selected to the NHL All-Rookie Team.
As the Rangers slowly developed into a championship-caliber team, Leetch won increasing respect from fans for his quiet demeanor and entertaining, offensive-minded play. In 1992 he became the fifth defenseman in history, and the only American defenseman, to record 100 points in a season and was awarded the Norris Trophy. Leetch was the last NHL defenseman to record 100 points in a season. In 1994 he again matched his career high of 23 goals in the regular season as the Rangers won the Presidents Trophy. That year the Rangers’ 54-year championship drought ended with a 7-game Stanley Cup victory over the Vancouver Canucks; Leetch became the first non-Canadian to be awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy, remaining the only American to win the award until the Boston Bruins’ Tim Thomas in 2011 and the Los Angeles Kings’ Jonathan Quick in 2012. He is only the second player in league history, the first and only non-Canadian, to win the Calder Trophy, the Norris Trophy and the Conn Smythe in their career. The only other player to do so was Bobby Orr.
He was the Captain of the 1996 championship team representing the United States of America in the World Cup of Hockey.
Following the Rangers’ Cup win in 1994, Leetch remained a fan favorite and team leader, serving as Captain from 1997–2000 after the departure of Mark Messier to the Vancouver Canucks (he would hand back the captaincy to Messier upon his return to the Rangers in 2000). In 1997 he again won the Norris Trophy and the Rangers made a surprise run to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they were defeated by the Philadelphia Flyers.
After the 2004–05 lockout, Leetch was signed by the Boston Bruins. During this season with the Bruins, he scored his 1,000th career point.
In 1998, he was ranked number 71 on The Hockey News’ list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players.
During most of the 2006–07 season Leetch received contract offers from nearly every NHL team, but accepted none, although he made no formal announcement pertaining to his status as a player. On May 24, 2007, Brian Leetch officially announced his retirement, ending an 18-year career.
On September 18, 2007 Leetch was announced one of the four recipients of the 2007 Lester Patrick Trophy.
On January 24, 2008, the New York Rangers retired Leetch’s number 2 jersey, joining fellow 1994 Stanley Cup Champion teammates Mark Messier and Mike Richter, as well as Rod Gilbert and Eddie Giacomin in the rafters of Madison Square Garden. On that night, his friend, Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees congratulated Leetch for the honor of having his number retired with a video that ended with Jeter saying “So congratulations, from one number 2 to another.” Leetch also had the honor of announcing during his ceremony that the New York Rangers would retire his friend and former teammate Adam Graves’ number during the 2008–09 season, joining Brian and the other greats above the Garden ice.
On October 10, 2008, both Leetch and Richter were among four were inducted into the United States Ice Hockey Hall of Fame in Denver. Both of them also played for the U.S. ice hockey team during the 2002 Winter Olympics, which won the silver medal.
On June 23, 2009, it was announced that Leetch would be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. He was honored during the November 6–9 induction weekend alongside Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille. The induction made it the third year in a row that a member of the Rangers’ 1994 Stanley Cup team has been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, following Messier in 2007 and Glenn Anderson in 2008, who was also inducted along with one of the on-ice officials when the Rangers won the Stanley Cup, Ray Scapinello.
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